- - Working

Seth Godin the online guru of marketing has a post that’s perfect for our industry:


Turns out that for the last seventeen twenty-seven years, every single movie that managed to win the Oscar for best picture was also nominated for best editing.

Great products, amazing services and stories worth talking about get edited along the way. Most of the time, the editing makes them pallid, mediocre and boring. Sometimes, a great editor will push the remarkable stuff. That’s his job.

The easy thing for an editor to do is make things safe. You avoid trouble that way. Alas, it also means you avoid success.

Who’s doing your editing?


Photo editors, word editors, photographers listen up, avoid making safe choices all the time. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve done something I thought would get me in trouble or even fired-*cough* I don’t do this anymore future employers-and just closed my eyes and let it happen because I knew if it worked it would be spectacular. Of course, it’s never that simple when you’ve got CEO’s, CFO’s and nervous editors to answer to but adopting a bit of an eff-it stance is always good for creating something memorable.

In the end, even though editorial photography is a collaborative process, you’ve got to live (and build your career) with what’s in your book. If you don’t like it, fire your editor.

There Are 6 Comments On This Article.

  1. James Godman

    So how do you feel about a photographer that sends you a highly edited selection from a shoot, perhaps even one picture?

  2. Are we moving into the era of the editor?

    I just finished John Bentley Mays’ article in the current Canadian Art magazine (found it online here http://www.canadianart.ca/art/features/2007/12/01/letterfromtoronto/
    where he argues that Toronto’s unique artistic talent is to re-interpret, re-examine… edit movements and artists. He cites Ydessa Hendeles curated (edited) shows as great examples of how to demonstrate a new idea through the presentation of artworks.

    I also just read somewhere that Flickr has something like 57 million photos online with creative commons notes attached, while Getty has something like 2 million. (I could be misremembering the numbers) Paul Melcher’s latest blog entry at http://blog.melchersystem.com/ talks about super-stock agencies which will accumulate search indexes of all the stock online, regardless of agency, and make their money there… another editing function if you will.

    That last one points out the problem though, the same one that I have when I go grocery shopping in these city-block sized stores… too much choice.

    I want someone to edit the wheat from the chaff. There’s just too much content out there, where is the editing? Why stop at 15 great shots in your book, why not go for 1500 on your Flickr page? That’s why I moved away from photo posting sites and toward blogs while searching for artists for 180 magazine. I’m glad to let someone else spend hours combing through the chaff.

    As editing, especially self-editing, becomes a lost art, editors may just become the new superstars.

    Ever think about doing freelance editing for photographers books and websites Rob?

    Kim Taylor

  3. I’m with James @1. I hate it when a client asks for “everything”.

    The essential creative decisions a photographer has are where to place the camera, where to point it and what moment to show.
    Bad edits are up there with bad art direction and cropping and micromanagement on set (ie: telling us where to put the camera).

    So if you ask me, the photographer should be able to make SOME decisions about editing. I always give plenty of options, but I never like to even show a client anything I wouldn’t want my name next to.

  4. @1. James: I really prefer it when the photographers do a tight edit because in many cases they know better than I what the important pictures are from a shoot. Certainly the ability to do this comes with experience. The photographers who deliver “final pictures only” have been doing it for awhile.

    @2. Kim: I think information on the web will start to organize itself around editors and an audience who agrees with that editors taste. No different than a magazine except our choices are nearly infinite and the cost of distribution is nearly zero. It’s an exciting time to be a creator and an editor and yes, I’m looking at all freelance projects to support my blogging habit.

    @3. Dude: Seeing the shit photos along will the good ones somehow devalues everything a little bit in addition to the chance that some moron will publish a photo that makes you look bad. I clearly remember being scolded by Phillip Jones Griffith for picking “the most boring photo from the entire shoot” in my edit and quickly let him show me a better choice.

  5. Funny you should put this post up. I was chatting to a couple of photographers about the same thing, and I’m always one for
    the photographer, especially the photographer in whom I believe will do a good job, to give me a tight selection of images commissioned. I had a ‘tog do a job for me, and she sent me all the images. Unfortunately, the editor saw the contact sheet and chose the worst pic for a front cover, and I was vetoed against. Thankfully, the editor (I hope!) has now realised that there are somethings he should leave to other people, and that includes images. :-)

  6. As a photo editor at a national magazine, I want a tight edit but not too tight from the photographer so when the edit changes or the tone of the story changes or the layout changes I have a photo that will work.
    I always welcome the photographer’s thoughts on which image(s) they feel are the strongest, but I need to have more than one style of image to choose from.